Being from Ventura County, an area with such a high population of Spanish speakers, I always had a strong drive to learn the language. At CSU Channel Islands, I took four full years of Spanish, but I was still unable to hold a full conversation.
I decided to take the plunge into a total immersion program, and within the first two months I was speaking the language; after six months I felt fluent. Now I take every opportunity to use my Spanish. The language and the experience have opened up new worlds to me. I think everyone should take advantage of an experience like the one I had.
My classes at the Universidad de Granada were challenging, but the professors were extremely friendly and helpful. I would often pop into the University building when I did not have class just to go and talk to the professors. Most of them lived in my neighborhood as well, so a lot of the time I would walk to class with them.
I lived in two different locations throughout the year. The first was in the Realejo, the old Jewish quarter. It sits beneath the Alhambra and is right next to the Centro de Lenguas Modernas. I lived there for 5 months, then I decided I wanted to live on the other side of the city.
This picture is actually taken from the second place I lived in. It was a beautiful old style house high up in the Albayzin, on the adjacent hill to the Alhambra. Every morning I woke up to this gorgeous view and during the winter I could even see the snow-covered Sierra Nevadas.
The other students I lived with quickly became my family. We would go on adventures into the mountains to go climbing, hiking, snowboarding, and at the end of every day we would have a big family meal. My international family had Italians, Swedes, Spaniards, and Belgians. I learned bits and pieces of every language I came across but all of our common language was Spanish. This created a wonderful environment for stress free learning.
While in Granada I took up rock climbing. There is a pueblo called Monachil just a 30-minute bus ride outside Granada. There is a trail from Monachil that leads all the way up to the ski resort. The river alongside the trail has cut a deep canyon in beautiful limestone walls, making for impeccable climbing. I came to this canyon at least once a week with my roommates and hiking friends. It became my home away from home. The river is home to big beautiful trout and is the perfect temperature during the hot summer and early fall for swimming. When I am asked what was my favorite part of living Granada, Monachil and its trails always come to mind.
During winter the surrounding mountains filled with snow. I got the chance to go up to the snow on three separate occasions. From the top of the mountain I was able to get a complete 360-degree view of areas all around Granada. I could see the Mediterranean up and down the coast, and the fertile valley on the Granada plain.
Every day was a new adventure for me. This picture is taken high up on the Camino del Rey near Malaga in the south of Spain. I would go on adventures like this with my roommates on a weekly basis. The goal was to see as much of the area around Granada as possible. By doing things like this I learned an entire new word set from driving directions to climbing commands and cautions all in Spanish.
Granada CF, the soccer team of Granada, made it to the premier league for the first time while I was in Spain. I went to a few games with a bunch of my friends. During the first, we ended up sitting directly in one of the main cheering sections of the stands. The guys sitting around us gave us song and chant books as well as drums so we could be as loud as we possibly could.
I am very outdoorsy by nature; I have always needed a way to escape the city and find myself in the natural world. This was another one of the reasons why I loved Granada so much. This is a picture of my campsite at a lake outside of Granada. I loved going on little adventures like this. We would hike out to a site and just stay there for 2 or 3 days at a time then come back to the house in Granada.
I was lucky enough to have been in Spain when they won the Euro Cup. I watched every game of the cup with my roommates. When Spain won, the entire country went crazy! It felt like every single person in the entire city of Granada was in the streets painted in red and yellow within an instant and they stayed there singing and celebrating until the early hours of the morning. There was a very strong sense of national pride as everyone sung
"YO SOY ESPAÑOL ESPAÑOL ESPAÑOL!"
My international family grew and grew as I travelled more. People from all over Europe who I had met while travelling came to visit me and my social web grew larger and larger. This was the reason that made it so difficult for me to leave Spain. I made so many amazing friends and had so many amazing experiences with them that when it was time to watch them go back to their respective countries and me to mine I nearly fell apart. I felt like my family was being torn to little pieces. I still keep in contact with most of them through email and Skype.
I faced so many of my fears while I was abroad. Leaving California, which has been my home my entire life, to go and live a full year in a country where I did not fully understand the language was my biggest fear. Conquering my fears made me a stronger more confident person, I am very glad I was able to have this experience and I strongly encourage everyone who is thinking about studying abroad to go all out with it and make sure that they get abroad.
Learn more about the study abroad program in Spain